Why the Overhead Throw is a Staple in Our Program

Though the internet/instagram/Twitter continue to try to complicate the training process, I firmly believe simplicity is key in any sport performance program.

Case in point, one of our staple med ball exercises with UNH Volleyball is a simple overhead throw that’s effective for a handful of reasons;

  1. It improves/trains the anterior core for power which is important for any sport not just volleyball.
  2. It allows us to train a very sport-specific pattern that mimics the high speeds that are similar to those seen in their sport.
  3. When we progress to the standing, stepping and more dynamic variations of the exercise, it helps to teach an athlete how to properly create forces from the ground through the legs, through the core, then finally out of the arms in a similar fashion to their sport.
  4. Finally, and maybe the most importantly and often overlooked with med ball work for a volleyball and/or overhead athlete from an injury prevention and shoulder health standpoint, an overhead throw teaches the posterior shoulder to decelerate appropriately once the med ball is release, in a similar way that will be seen when hitting a volleyball.

Effective training doesn’t have to be complicated.

Off-Season Phase 1 Day 2 with Volleyball

Spring, Phase 1, Week 1, Day 2 with UNH Volleyball.

Squad is back from winter break getting ready for the 2018 season, starting with an isometric based phase comprised of a combination of overcoming, yielding and long duration isometrics.

1️⃣ Trap Bar Jump Squats
2️⃣ Bench Pin Press (not shown)
3️⃣ Bat Wings
4️⃣ 1-Leg Hip Bridge
5️⃣ Split Squat

We started the session off with a lateral based warm up consisting of some ladder work, lateral speed development, 1-Leg medial/lateral box hops and some med ball drills for core power/shoulder health

Weekend Week in Review

It’s Sunday which means I review some of the podcasts I listened to and articles that I read throughout the last week.

When it comes to the podcasts, I really enjoyed the Movement Fix with Brett Bartholomew. Brett is a strength coach that thinks beyond sets and reps, a coach that has a passion in developing human beings, which is a slightly different area of expertise then you’ll find with most strength coaches.

For articles, I enjoyed the article on the 1×20 system with Matt Thome. I have been thinking about giving 1×20 a try in the early off-season with teams in the reconditioning phase and this article helped clear up some of the confusion I had around the system.



Strength Chat with Bryan Mann

Movement Fix with Brett Bartholomew

CVASP with Tim DiFrancesco

CVASP with Jeremy Frisch

School of Greatness with Gary Vaynerchuk

Mobility WOD with Eric Cressey


Random Thoughts – February Edition

Strength Coach = Stress Manager?

High Performance Implementation of 1×20 and Beyond with Matt Thome

Modern Speed Training with Alex Natera

The Reason the Patriots Always Come Back by Kevin Clark

Optimal Tempo Training by Derek Hansen

Random Thoughts – February Edition

Another month, another group of random thoughts that are going through my head. Some from working day to day in the weight room, some through listening to others thoughts in podcasts, and some due to what I have been reading. Enjoy!

  1. There is a science to what we do as coaches, but more importantly there is an art to the science of coaching. Sport performance coaches need to look at themselves as human performance coaches as there is a huge social aspect to what we do.
  2. The sport of hockey requires a lot of physical qualities to perform at an elite level, but beyond the obvious that a healthy athlete is most important, I think high conditioning levels are the most important. Players get caught on the ice for longer then wanted all the time and as a result need to have high levels of conditioning to play well. Don’t get me wrong, be strong is important but not having a robust aerobic/anaerobic system is critical wont allow you to use that strength.
  3. Just some food for thought; recently I’ve added some isometric holds for PAP purposes in-season with women’s hockey on their second lift of the week (Wednesday, speed/strength emphasis going into the weekend) paired with RFE Split Squat off the advice of Anthony Donskov and after reading Matthew Van Dyke & Max Schmarzo’s book on the topic. Though it is only subjective feedback, we have had zero soreness and reports of “great legs” on the weekends.
  4. Contrary to popular belief, you can get stronger using sub-maximal loads. We live below 90% 1RM essentially all year except for the times that we test, which we also do rarely. For what its worth, our strength numbers continue to go up.
  5. The most important thing you can do for an athlete is keep them healthy.
  6. Your ‘what’ and your ‘hows’ can and probably will always be changing and evolving, but your ‘why’ should stay consistent.
  7. Med ball work is so simple and so beneficial for a variety of reasons but doesn’t always get performed all that well for two reasons. One, I think athletes need to understand they need to throw the med ball as hard as possible each rep. Two, coaches overcoach it. Assuming form is good, shut up and let the athlete be an athlete – don’t make med ball work look robotic.
  8. I think overhead pressing is important but I also don’t think you should ever overhead pressing with a barbell. If you are trying to get a strict vertical press, go with dumbbells or kettlebells, as they give the should a much safer range of motion to work their way through. If you aren’t married to being completely vertical in the pressing, try landmine press – extremely shoulder friendly.
  9. Trap Bar Jump Squats have slowly become one of my favorite exercises to build and train power. They are extremely simple to learn how to perform and extremely hard for someone to mess up which is always a win:win in my book. It’s also very rare to find someone that can’t perform the exercise because of injury concerns.
  10. It costs $0.00 to treat people well.

Strength Coaches = Stress Managers?

Strength coach stress manager

My philosophy in-season is very simple; train as much as necessary, not as much as possible – and a lot of times in-season less is more because of a tough weekend of games, tough practices etc. The goal is to keep them as fresh as we can, keep them healthy, and not to be afraid to call an audible and go to plan B when they walk in exhausted.

Weekend Week in Review

It’s Sunday which means I review some of the podcasts I listened to and articles that I read throughout the last week.

When it comes to the podcasts, without a doubt the newest episode of the Strength Coach Podcast with Devan McConnell and Justin Roethlingshoefer is a must listen..so much great stuff in that one podcast. You also can’t go wrong with anything involving Charlie Weingroff.

For articles, Stu McGill is a genius and is the best in the world when it comes to low back pain and health – read it! Beyond that I would highly recommend the sprinting article by Tony Holler, who is a crazy smart sprint coach based in Illinois.


Strength Coach Podcast #223

Strength Squad with Charlie Weingroff

Building Better Athletes with Brett Bartholomew

Pacey Performance with Matt Nichol

Applied Sports Science with Doug McKenney


Real Causes of Low Back Pain by Stu McGill

Ten Sprint Facts I Wish Everyone Understood by Tony Holler

Baseball and Olympic Lifts by Zach Dechant

Why and How We Program Breathing Exercises by Movement as Medicine

Heels Elevated Bilateral Squatting?

Got a lot of engagement with various coaches on Twitter with this thought the other day. Though I am not a huge proponent of excessive loading of the bilateral squat (back/front squat) I do think it’s important to be able to perform the squat pattern well as it is a basic, fundamental movement pattern.

Heels Elevated Twitter Post

As a coach I think you should always be asking yourself if you like the way the any movement looks and I typically don’t love the way the squat movement looks. One of our most important jobs is to improve movement efficiency and with the heels elevated I almost find that the movement immediately looks better, for two big reasons;

  1. the biggest reason, the heel elevation essentially gives the athlete more ankle mobility
  2. elevating the heels gives the athlete an anterior weight shift that allows them to ‘sit back’ in the movement.

Beyond this, it’s important to be in tune and understand the group you are coaching – we know hockey athletes will typically present ankle mobility issues because they skate in a boot that eliminates most all ankle movement – so why would we try to jam a square peg into a round hole.

Developing Field of Hockey Strength and Conditioning

The world and profession of strength and conditioning, a profession that is still in its infancy, was originally accepted by football programs looking to develop bigger, stronger, faster and more resilient athletes. These original programs developed by applying both bodybuilding and powerlifting methods in the training of athletes with results that helped push the profession forward and into the lives of most all other sports. There is no doubt that the profession would be nowhere near where it currently is and reached the heights that it has currently reached without these programs and the coaches that built the profession from the ground up.

Taylor Hall

As a result of the football strength training revolution, many former and current strength and conditioning programs are greatly influenced by the way that football programs have applied training principles over the years. On top of this, many strength and conditioning coaches are former football players that found a passion for the weight room during their time as a college football player and are now applying the strength principles that they learned and embrace through the years playing football.

Two things, however, have changed the landscape of the field in recent years.

One is social media and the ability for coaches to showcase the work they are doing with their athletes and share their thoughts on strength and conditioning with other coaches. The interaction coaches from across the world can have with one another is unprecedented – it’s not uncommon for coaches in one part of the world to be completely in-tune with what coaches on a different continent are doing with their athletes. The power of social media has clearly been a game changer.

social media

The second revolves around the investment that some schools/professional organizations are putting into their strength and conditioning departments. Many schools now have a football only strength staff along with an Olympic sports only strength staff. Schools have strength coaches that just work with basketball teams or just with the hockey teams. With the investment into the field, we also find more and more coaches coming into the profession filling the demand for larger strength staffs. These coaches are now coming from sport backgrounds that don’t involve football. Former college basketball players are getting into the field. Former college hockey players are getting into the field. The field is now developing coaches that have different sport backgrounds and therefore different thoughts, beliefs and opinions on how to train athletes.

A clear conclusion of this; without a doubt I feel we currently find ourselves smack dab in the middle of a strength training movement in the sport of ice hockey. The days of applying both bodybuilding and powerlifting principles is becoming a thing of the past. Hockey is slowly but surly pulling itself away from the original training influences of the past and forging its own path.

Yes, just like football and all other sports, hockey needs strong and powerful athletes that are resilient to injury. Yes, hockey athletes need to develop lower body strength and lower body power to increase their ability to accelerate, decelerate and change direction on the ice. Yes, hockey players need upper body strength to withstand the high impact created by crashing into another player, the ice, or the boards. But, the methods in creating these athletes has changed and they will continue to change with the influence of coaches that are now specializing in working solely with hockey populations.

Weekend Week in Review

It’s Sunday which means I review some of the podcasts I listened to and articles that I read throughout the last week.

When it comes to the podcasts, I really enjoyed the Just Fly Performance Podcast with Cal Dietz from the University of Minnesota as well as the All Things Strength & Wellness Podcast with Fergus Connolly, who is an incredibly smart guy working at the University of Michigan.

For articles, the article on the 6 billion nights of sleep data that Fitbit has compiled was very interesting. Sleep hygiene is something that I have been reading a lot about recently and find very interesting.


All Things Strength and Wellness with Fergus Connolly

Just Fly Performance with Cal Dietz

CVASP with Ron McKeefery

Physical Preparation with Bill Hartman


40 Quotes from Tribe of Mentors

What Your Doctor Never Told You About Arthritis by Tony Gentilcore

Less or More or Enough: How Much Information do You Need by Brett Jones

4 Rules of Posture by Chris Leib

What Fitbits 6 Billion Nights of Sleep Data Reveals About Us by David Pogue

40 Quotes from Tribe of Mentors

Over the course of the last 3-5 weeks I have slowly been making my way through Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss. Anyone who has gotten their hands on the book or have read any of Tim’s work knows that it took 3-5 weeks because the book is a whopper – 500+ pages worth of a whopper!

The other thing that people who follow Tim’s work know is that there are a ton of knowledge to gain from him. In this book Tim essentially reaches out to some of the most successful people in the world, various fields of work, and had them answer the same 11 questions – their answers are the book.

tribe of mentors

As I made my way through the book I realized I had given my highlighter quite the workout. Here are 40 quotes from various different people that I came across and stuck out to me while I was reading the book;

  1. Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage. – Anais Nin
  2. When in doubt, let kindness and compassion guide you. – Samin Nosrat
  3. Not dead, can’t quit. – Kyle Maynard
  4. I decided that if I was going to succeed or fail, it was going to be up to me. – Terry Crews
  5. Busy is a decision. – Debbie Millman
  6. You don’t find the time to do something; you make the time to do things. – Debbie Millman
  7. Happiness is a choice you make and a skill you develop. – Naval Ravikant
  8. Ego is about who’s right. Truth is about what’s right. – Mike Maples Jr.
  9. I can’t give you a surefire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody all the time. – Herbert Bayard Swope
  10. One should use common words to say uncommon things. – Arthur Schopenhauer
  11. You can be a juicy ripe peach and there’ll still be someone who doesn’t like peaches. – Dita Von Teese
  12. Be so good they can’t ignore you. – Richa Chadha
  13. Learning to ignore things is one of the great paths to inner peace. – Robert J. Sawyer
  14. Whenever there is any doubt, there is no doubt. – Max Levchin
  15. The difference between winning and losing is most often not quitting. – Max Levchin
  16. Learn more, know less. – Neil Strauss
  17. If you’re not being criticized, you’re probably not doing anything exceptional. – Neil Strauss
  18. Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life. – Jerzy Gregorek
  19. No one owes you anything. – Amelia Boone
  20. Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. – Theodore Roosevelt
  21. There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all. – Peter Drucker
  22. Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted. – William Bruce Cameron
  23. Be the best, it’s the only market that’s not crowded. – Tom Peters
  24. Courage over comfort. – Brene Brown
  25. Reinvent yourself regularly. – Peter Guber
  26. Good things come to those who work their asses off and never give up. – Daniel Ek
  27. Always ask: What am I missing? And then listen to the answer. – Strauss Zelnick
  28. The actual consequences of your actions matter far more than your actions themselves. – Liv Boeree
  29. Dreams come true. You just have to be willing to work for them. – Annie Mist Porisdottir
  30. Think for yourself while being radically open-minded. – Ray Dalio
  31. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. – Sarah Elizabeth Lewis
  32. Is what I am doing right now aligned with my life’s calling? – Gabor Mate
  33. If you want to go fast, go alone, but f you want to go far, you must go together. – Steve Case
  34. When everyone is saying no, you know you’re doing something right. – Darren Aronofsky
  35. Be in a hurry to learn, not in a hurry to get validation. – Evan Williams
  36. Never settle for “good enough”. – Whitney Cummings
  37. To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing. – Elbert Hubbard
  38. As a leader, there is no one else to blame. Don’t make excuses. If I don’t take ownership of problems, I can solve them. That’s what a leader has to do: take ownership of the problems, the mistakes, and the shortfalls, and take ownership of creating and implementing solutions to get those problems solved. Take ownership. – Jocko Willink
  39. Discipline equals freedom. – Jocko Willink
  40. If you want to have more, do more, and be more, it all begins with the voice that no one else hears. – Tim Ferriss